A knowledge of Indigenous history was important for veterans such as Francis Pegahmagabow. Knowing the stories of the original peoples was as important as understanding the history of the larger country, and indeed, did not need to be mutually exclusive. This story told by Francis’s son Duncan, describes how military action in North America was often perceived negatively by Indigenous people. It also explains why even the Canadian Ojibwe refer to American soldiers as the “long knives” still today.
Listen to a recording of the story in Anishinaabemowin.
This is what was told to me a long time ago.
Gwnimaa go naa mewnzha iw nake pii be-bi-koginagooyaan kaa gegoo mezinaateseg gii-tesinoon maa.
Perhaps long ago, in the way that I was raised, there were no televisions around.
Kaa go gegoo nimkii-waasmowin ngii-yaanziimin endaayaang.
We didn’t have any electricity in our home.
Mii eta go kiib-mide-waasgonechgan gaa-aabjichigaadeg.
There was only a coal oil lamp which was used.
Miinwaa gwa gegoo nimkii-waasmowin gii-yaasinoon mii eta go naa boodwed maaba ndedem mii go naa gaa-nji-gzhidemgak maa endaayaang.
Again, there was no electricity, and it was just from my father making fire that we had heat in our home.
Mii dash go gaa-zhichigewaad giw go naa niibing.
This is what people would do in the summer.
Naan’godnongin iihow baa-mawiziiyaang odi naawanj.
Sometimes we would go about looking for berries out on the bay.
Miinwaa go naa ge baa-wiigwaaskeyaang go naa mii go maa giigoonkeyaang.
And we went around picking birchbark and fishing over there.
Mii go naa pii baa-mawiziiyaang go ngii-koogedemin odi mize go naa pii gii-gbeshiiyaang go naa.
When we were out picking berries, we would make camp whenever we needed to stop somewhere.
Ngoji minwaapkaamgak mii maa gii-nbaawaad giw Nishnaabeg.
Wherever there was nice ground rock is where those Nishnaabe people would sleep.
Mii dash go naagwshig kina gegoo gii-weshksijigaadeg iihow jibwaa dbikak.
In the evening everything was newly set up before nightfall.
Mii gii-wiisniiyaang jiibaakwewaad giw kwewag ji-wiisniiyaang.
And so we would eat, the women cooked so that we could eat.
Mii dash aazhgo ge-ni-dbikaabminaagwak kaa gegoo waaskonenjgan.
It was already starting to get dark, and we didn’t have a light.
Mii go eta niw kiib-mide-waasgonechgan go naa gwnimaa.
All we perhaps had was a coal oil lantern.
Mii-sh maa gii-gchi-boodwewaad niw mii-sh maa gii-giiwtaahaakhdabwaad maa.
They would build a great fire, and they would sit around it there.
Mii-sh maa gii-yaawaad giw gii-dbaajmowaad gow Nishnaabeg.
Then those Nishnaabe people would tell their stories.
Mii aazhgo naa nake gaa-bi-zhiwebak.
It was in this way that it happened.
Mii dash maa gii-noonmaambaan mewnzha go naa gaa-zhiwebdogwbanen giw Nishnaabeg mii odi gii-bi-gdak’chigaazwag odi Gchi-mookwmaan-kiing.
It was there that I heard about what must have happened to those Nishnaabe who were treated so cruelly over there in the United States.
Mii gaa-nindwaa iihow wii-aanj’sijigaadenig iihow wda-shkongan’miwaa go naa ge-wiinwaa odi nake dash zhaawnong.
They were told that their reserve was going to be moved down south.
Mii gaa-nindwaa nake ji-zhaawaad ji-bmosewaad nake.
And they were told that in that direction they were to walk.
Miish iw go naa gaa-nji-nindwaa iw go maa go naa.
This is why they were told that.
Aanind go naa gii-gchi-aawiwag gow Nishnaabeg.
There were some very elderly people among those Nishnaabe people there.
Old men, and old women.
Kaa daa-kshkitoosiinaawaa iihow ji-ni-bimsewaad odi bii-waasekmig odi temgak iihow wshki-shkongan gaa-miindwaa.
They would not be able to walk to this far away place where that new reserve they were given was.
Mii go naa wii-nbowaad wii-nsindwaa.
They were going to die along the way, or they were going to get killed.
Mii go naa eta gwa gaa-nji-nindwaa gaa-nji-miindwaa ji-zhiwebak.
This is why they were told this, why they were given this, so that this would happen.
Kaa-sh gii-ndawendsiinaawaa wii-zhaawaad wedi.
They didn’t want to go to that far place.
Mii dash iihow mii gii-bi-maajii-pahwewaad.
And so they started to flee from there.
Mii dash iihow maa gii-gbeshwaagwen giw Nishnaabeg mii dash iihow gii-kenmawaad iihow aazhgo gaa-bi-dimgoowaad niw Gchi-mookmaanan.
But as they camped there, those Nishnaabe knew that the Americans were already catching up to them.
Miish gaa-zhi-kenmigwen maaba bezhig Nishnaabe.
This one Nishnaabe had a vision of this.
Aabdeg wewiip ji-gshkoziwaad kina ji-maajii-bwewaad miinwaa.
They all had to hurry and wake up, for everyone would have to start running again.
Mii gaa-zhi-kenmawaad maa naawanj nake mii eta go odi nake waa-ni-zhaawaad.
They knew that out there in the bay was the only way they could go.
Mii go gii-baataanaashkoondwaa gow.
They were cornered there.
Kaa go ngoji miinwaa waa-zhaawaad.
There was nowhere they could again go.
Mii-sh gegpii kina ji-nsindwaa.
And in a short while they were all going to be killed.
Miish maaba bezhig gchi-mndimooyenh mii ow sa gii-gwaansigendang.
There was this one old lady, she was feeling quite badly.
Mii geget kaa geyaabi ngoji waa-pahwewaad gii-baataanaashkoondwaa iw.
It was true that they could flee no further – they were cornered there.
Mii dash maabam gchi-mndimooyenh naanaagadawendang.
And so this old woman thought about this.
Mii giiwenh mkwendang iihow maabam gchi-mndimooyenh gii-kwesenswid gii-mkadekeban.
And this old woman remembered of when she had fasted as a girl.
Mii dash niw gaa-bi-zhawenmigojin niw giishknakadoon.
And how she had been then blessed by these tree stumps.
Mii go gaa-bi-nbwaachwigojin niw gii-kwesenswid.
For one had visited her when she was a girl.
Miish gaa-igwad iihow, “Giishpine ngoding mezinageniman gwnimaa go naa giiwenh wii-kenman gegoo wii-zhiwebziiyin – ndamshin.
And he so said to her, “If one day you are having a hard time, or if you know that something is going to happen to you – call me.
Mii gwa ji-naadmawinaan.
I will help you.
Nga-bi-dgoshin gwa ji-naadmawinaan.
I will come to help you.
Mii gii-mkwendang iihow, “Aansh naa iidog ezhichgewaanen?”
And she thought of this, “Now what is it that I should do?”
Mii sa gii-wiinmawaagwen niw niniwan, “Haaw, ozhitoog niw gchi-jiimaanan.
And then she told those men, “Alright, now build some large boats.
Mtigoog naa kina weweni gdaa-dkobinaawaag maa miish maa ji-booziiying ga-tkamiimin maa.
You shall carefully tie together some trees, so that we may board and go across.
We will cross a large river.”
“Gaawiin,” kida maaba Nishnaabe.
“No,” said this one Nishnaabe.
“Mii sa naa ji-waabmigiiying odi nbiishing eyaaying go ji-baapaashkzigoying.”
“We will be seen out there on the water where we are, and we will be shot.”
“Bzindwishin,” wdinaan mndimooyenh.
“Listen to me,” said this old woman to him.
“Ezhichgeg iw gaa-inind,” gaa-ni-naan.
“Do that which you were told,” she said to him.
Mii sa gii-ozhitoowaad niw jiimaanan.
And so they built those boats.
Gii-maawndoonaawaad niw gchi-mtigoon kina gii-tkobinaawaad niw mtigoon.
They gathered those big trees, and they tied those trees together.
Miish maa gii-boozwaagwen maa gow Nishnaabeg.
And so those Nishnaabe all got on there.
Mii kina gaa-zhichgewaagwen giw Nishnaabeg gii-zhitoowaad niw gchi-aazhigane-mkinaatigoon go naa.
This is what they must have done, those Nishnaabe people built some rafts.
Mii-sh maa kina gii-boozwaad – gii-boozwaawaad maa niw go naa getzin’jin, binoojiinyan.
And then they boarded – they put those Elders and those children on there.
Nshke gii-gaanjwebnamwaad maa naawanj now.
And they pushed it out into the bay.
Miish gii-tkam-waashwaagwen mii iw gii-bi-bgamaanmak gegoo.
They started to drift out, and the wind began to come in.
Gii-ni-maajii-aasinoon niw gchi-jiimaanan.
And those big boats started to sail out.
Wedi naaw-gaam – mashow-gaam wodi ne-yaawaad.
Out into the middle of the lake – right out into the open water did they move.
Mii dash giiwenh aazhgo maa gaa-bi-bgam-miinwaad aazhgo nishi’aad zhimaagnishag.
And already were they coming to kill – those soldiers.
Mii gii-bi-waabndamwaad maa nbiing gii-yaawaad giw Nishnaabeg.
And they could see out there in the water where those Nishnaabe were.
Naabwaad wodi naawanj kaa gegoo gii-waabndaziinaawaa.
They looked out into the bay, but they couldn’t see anything.
Mii go eta go niw gchi-giishknakdoon.
There were only these stumps there.
Wedi go ni-deteb-gwandemgak odi tkamaasing giishknakdoon.
They were drifting across over there – those stumps.
Miish gii-kshkitoowaad gii-bi-tkam-bahwewaad.
This is how they were able to get across there.
Mii gegoo gii-bi-bgam-maanmak mii bi-tkamaasing niw giishknakdoon.
And there was a strong wind that came, and those stumps drifted across here.
Mii gwaahaasing wodi maampii-sh nakeying.
It landed over here in this direction.
Maa ngoji gii-gwaahaasing niw giishknakdoon gii-gbaawaad giw Nishnaabeg.
This is the place that those stumps landed, and those Nishnaabe got off.
Mii go pane kina gii-bi-maajaawaad.
And they all started to come this way.
Miish go maa ngoji go maa ayhiing Kettle Point.
This was at that place over there – Kettle Point.
Gii-bgam-bahwewaad maa Canada.
They fled here to Canada.
Miish go maa kina gaa-bi-zhaawaad miish gegoo gii-bi-gziwaad giw aanind shko naa Kettle-Point miinwaa ge Wiarton – Neyaashing-nagmiing miinwaa odi Gchi-mnising.
And they all came this way to settle, some at Kettle point, and Wiarton – Cape Croker, and some over there at Christian Island.
Mii ow kina maa gii-bi-naanoogshkaawaad giw Nishnaabeg maampii dash gow gii-bmi-yaawaad maa.
They all came along this way, stopping here too as they went along.
Miish go wodi nakeying niigaan odi nake ayhiing Mnidoo-mnising gii-ni-dgoshnawaad wedi Bawiting.
And some went up ahead in the direction of Manitoulin Island, arriving there at Sault Ste. Marie.
Kina go eni-nake eni-naamgaak Gchi-gaaming – Lake Superior mii go maa nake gaa-ni-daawaad giw Nishnaabeg.
All along the north shore up towards Lake Superior, those Nishnaabe people settled along this way.
Mii-sh go geyaabi odi endaawaad gii-bmi-naanoogshkaawaad.
And they still live there where they stopped along the way.
Mii maa nake Parry Island niigaan nake Shawanaga gaa-zhiwebziwaagobanen maa giw Nishnaabeg.
And here at Parry Island, and over there at Shawanaga – this is how it happened for the Nishnaabeg here.
Mii maaba gii-mkwendang maaba gchi-mndimooyenh gii-bi-zhawenmigod niw giishknakdoon.
This old woman remembered how she had been blessed by those stumps.
Mii eta gaa-bi-nji-dgnoshnawaad.
This is the only reason why those people arrived here.
Weweni go naa daa-gii-waabmaawaan gwnimaa-sh Nishnaaben.
For those soldiers would have been able to see those Nishnaabe there.
Mii eta gaa-waabndamwaad maa niw giishknakdoon.
All they could see were those stumps.
Mii gaa-zhiwebdogwbanen maaba bezhig kwe pii aazhgo mkadeked.
This is what happened because this one woman had fasted.
Mii gaa-kidowaagwen giw Nishnaabeg.
This is what was said by those Nishnaabe people.
Mii aapji gaa-nji-mshkowendaagzid maabam Nishnaabe gii-mkadeked.
This is why this Nishnaabe was so strong, because she had fasted.
And they were blessed.
Gii-bi-bgam-bahwewaad giw wii-nsigwaan maa naa niw Gchi-mookmaanan.
They had fled here as they were going to be killed by those Americans.
But they didn’t catch up to them.
Gzhaabwiwaad wii-bi-zhaabwingwad maabam gaa-zhi-zhawendaagzid gewiin gii-mkadeked – gchi-mndimooyenh.
They survived this – they were carried through by this one who had been blessed in her fasting – that great old woman.
Gii-bi-zhawenmigod niw giishknakdoon.
They were blessed by those stumps.
Geget go maanda zhiwebad.
This really happened.
Mshkowendaagwad sa nii ow wii-mkadeked.
It is so powerful when one goes to fast.
Thank-you for listening.
Thank-you for telling.